Staying on top of Mount Washmore was an ongoing struggle for me. Even now, it seems like just when I get the last load of the day into the dryer, I enter another room and see the muddy shirt that one of our four little tornadoes on the ground has haphazardly shed. However, now that I have a system in place, with a scheduled time when I know the next load of laundry will get done, I no longer have to fight the urge to hand-wash the one or two remnant pieces of clothing that inevitably appear.
Our family did not always possess this apparel aptitude, though.
Seven years ago, when my husband and I were first married, laundry was a chore that I would underestimate and let sneak up on me on a weekly basis. I started making my own dirt cheap liquid laundry detergent to off set the cost (look for the recipe in an upcoming post), but that was little motivation to actually get the clothes done.
During that time, I was finishing my bachelors degree with a full class load, while working as the Afterschool Enrichment Coordinator of a local Episcopal school, and would scramble to catch up on all the weeks laundry over the weekend. I was unorganized and honestly overwhelmed by several things at the time. So much so that at one point, I served boiled, no not even grilled, hotdogs as supper for a priest friend of ours one weeknight. In my frazzled state, I had completely forgotten we were hosting company and got home a mere half hour before his arrival. I was utterly mortified by the experience and I’ve been trying to earn back my hospitality card ever since. Graciously, our guest had mercy on two strapped newlyweds and never mentioned it.
Oh! And I was expecting our son that first year. How did I forgot that wee tidbit? Thanks be to God, when our son was born life began to slowdown. I had graduated shortly before his birth and had the blessing of being on maternity leave through the summer. Finally, I was able pull together a laundry routine in the midst of new motherhood and nursing around the clock.
The overarching theme for this new system (and still the majority of our family’s) was simplicity.
My 3 Easy Steps:
1. Purge the family wardrobe.
As mothers know, your non-maternity clothing does not fit again immediately after birth. This was news to me and I had limited funds to bridge the gap between sizes. This forced me to seriously evaluate the longevity of my current wardrobe. It was also during this period that I realized the practicality of only wearing skirts. I kept a couple nicer dresses for wedding type events and donated everything else that wasn’t mama couture in which I could nurse. My husband’s clothing was already down to the basics, so I simply separated what did and didn’t fit. Gradually, I weeded out the styles of baby clothes we actually used and have continued an essentials-only guideline with each additional child. I’ll share the details of my sons’ minimalist wardrobes in next week’s post. When you don’t have reserves to pull from laundry can’t be put off indefinitely. The bottom line: the fewer clothes you have the less you will let laundry pile up.
2. Choose the frequency that fits your family.
There are several options out there when it comes to laundry routines. Try one for a week to see how it serves your family, then be intentional and schedule the day(s) for the following weeks. You can follow the example of Caroline Ingalls and devote one day solely to the task, choose a couple days to spread out the work, or run a load or two a day. Your decision will be heavily affected by your family’s size and activity level.
As much as I admire The sturdy character of Mrs. Ingalls, I had to accept that the once a week laundry marathon was not cutting it for us, even as a family of only three. I also found that if I left the designated day unsolidified, and waited until I guessed there would be a few manageable loads, other more pressing activities would come up. Those weeks, laundry would repeatedly be pushed to the next day and the sneaky marathon washing cycle would threaten to begin again. Having specific days during the week for laundry has freed me from wardrobe related worry. Presently, Tuesdays and Fridays are laundry days. I begin the first of 5 loads after my morning ritual and we fold once post-lunch playtime is over.
3. Include the kids.
Many hands make light work. I am a huge advocate of involving children in household upkeep. I don’t want our sons to think that only Mom can do these things or that a house faerie visits at night and completes what they don’t see done. Yes, at times it is easier to let the kids go off while chores are quickly done, but when everyone works together they are given the gift of your presence and an opportunity to cultivate responsibility. An added benefit is that while under your supervision, you won’t have to fret that another clean room is being demolished in the ominous silence.
At first, I would only do housework when our son was napping. I’m laughing at myself as I type this. Only me as a first time parent would be naive enough to think that was a sustainable pattern. It didn’t take me long to get back in touch with reality and start slinging our little barnacle up like a papoose while I worked. I haven’t looked back since. Now, all our sons are included in the laundry process. At a year old, they help move the clothes from the washer to the dryer to the basket. Once two, they can fold towels and their own clothes. We have not quite hit the point where our six year old can run a load by himself, but I see it on the horizon. Get excited with me!!
Before going on, please don’t get hung up on the two year old folding and think this an unattainable feat for your little ones – I’m not talking about the Konmari method here. Our sons literally fold by halves. The shirts and shorts have the top folded over the bottom once and the pants are folded over twice. The only more complicated fold includes sticking the long sleeves in first on their button down, church shirts.
Admittedly, adding 4 little helpers to the effort does make the folding take longer, about fifteen minutes more for us. And yes, I do have to periodically refocus them and break up impromptu sock fights. But, games like racing a timer or each other are great motivators for them to stay on task. Celebrating a job well done with a fun activity afterwards is also an effective incentive. Meanwhile, the gained life experience and growing of their servant hearts are priceless benefits.
Family laundry can seem daunting, but, by incorporating these little steps, you can iron out a method for your home and remove some of the pressure associated with this necessity of life.
What laundry tips and strategies have proven successful for your family? Please post a comment to let me know what works for you.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with this prayer:
We thank you for the bounteous and perpetual cascade from our hampers, for they are a proclamation of your providence and the cherished ones that fill our hearts with so much joy.